For Harmonix – the creator of Guitar Hero, Dance Central, and Rock Band – April 2013 will always be remembered as the month the studio changed its identity for good, as there were two very big events in the studio’s life that took place in the past three weeks. On Apr. 2, Harmonix issued the song “American Pie” by Don McLean on the Rock Band Store, the last downloadable song after more than 280 consecutive weeks of new content for the series. Second, it was the month that new Harmonix board of directors member Brad Feld confirmed that Harmonix is working on not one, but three new games for upcoming game technology. The future is bright for Harmonix.
The studio hasn’t revealed much about what it’s next game will be, but there have been tantalizing hints over the past twelve months that Harmonix is going to move into new territory, namely the sort of story-based action adventure games that are the antithesis of Rock Band and Dance Central.
Industry bloodhound Superannuation spotted via LinkedIn that Zak McClendon has been hired by Harmonix as a design director. McClendon may not be one of the most famous game designers out there, but after thirteen years in the industry his star is rising. Most recently he was the lead designer on 2K Marin’s BioShock 2, and before that McClendon worked on Crystal Dynamics’ Project: Snowblind after spending the first half of last decade working for Midway until the studio closed in 2005.
McClendon’s expertise in the field of shooters and adventure games doesn’t necessarily mean that Harmonix is definitely expanding into that style of game, but job postings with Harmonix from May 2012 certainly suggest it is. It was then that the studio started hunting for a number of positions, including a narrative designer. It was looking for game professionals with experience making “emotionally compelling storylines” for a proposed motion-based music and combat game.
The game that McClendon is working on is at least at the early stages. Feld has seen three prototypes running at Harmonix and he said that they’re collectively “a window into the future.”
“We’ve known the Harmonix founders for 18 years,” said Feld, “What they and their team have accomplished is the stuff of legends and the new games they’ve showed us are all mind-blowing.”